Capital construction on the horizon for Steamboat Springs School District
Steamboat Springs — All signs point to capital construction on the horizon for the Steamboat Springs School District — provided the community is on board and funding falls into place.
The Steamboat Springs School Board heard Monday from investment banker Dan O’Connell, who outlined projected tax impacts of a mill levy for residents within district boundaries and the corresponding amount a levy would generate for a construction project.
O’Connell also relayed the pros and cons of putting a mill levy on the ballot for voters to consider in 2015 versus 2016.
A director with Boulder-based RBC Capital, O’Connell has worked with the district since 2002, including during the 2006 bond measure to reconstruct Soda Creek Elementary, as well as working with Steamboat Springs for its 2005 library expansion.
The district has hired a pre-bond engineer and is conducting architect interviews this week, and Superintendent Brad Meeks said Tuesday it’s fair to say some type of capital construction is around the corner.
“Obviously, we’re growing, and we can’t keep adding students to these buildings,” Meeks said.
Beyond the identified need for more space, Meeks said he wasn’t yet ready to say whether the district would be looking to build a new school, versus renovating existing schools.
Board President Roger Good said he recently brought a tour through Soda Creek Elementary — a school already over capacity.
“Certainly we’ve got crowded schools, it’s safe to say that. We’ve got 100 kids at Soda Creek in modulars without running water,” said Good. “The challenge is how do we make the smartest decision possible.”
Good said that when master plan committees comprised of community members and staff make a recommendation to the board this spring, it will then decide the best course of action.
In O’Connell’s presentation Monday, he outlined the funds that could be generated for various-sized projects over 20 years by bringing a new mill levy to voters.
For a home with a market value of $500,000, O’Connell estimated homeowners would need to pay about $12.81 per month or $153.75 annually to generate the funds for a $50 million project. He did acknowledge that home values are expected to increase in August, and with the change, the mills required to fund the same project would then decrease.
Good said it might be worth exploring whether the Education Fund Board would consider a partnership to use a fixed amount of their revenue for the project.
At a community meeting with engineer Jeff Chamberlin of RLH Engineering last week, Meeks talked about potential sites for a new building.
The district owns a nine-acre parcel on Whistler Road and a 35-acre parcel in the Steamboat II subdivision, and Meeks said that future evaluations would determine if the sites were ideal for new facilities.
Chamberlin said the typical elementary school is on a 10-acre site, although he said he’s been involved in projects with sites of five acres or less.
In a packet given to the board, O’Connell outlined the positives and negatives of getting a measure on the 2015 or 2016 ballot.
He said the district had enough time to execute a 2015 measure, but that during an off-year election, there would be lower voter participation and a generally less school-friendly demographic of older, tax-sensitive “home-owning Republican types.” On the upside, 2015’s smaller voter base would be easier to target and influence.
In 2016, voter participation would be higher and a more school-friendly demographic would come to the polls, including younger voters with children and renters who are less tax sensitive. But as a busy election year, 2016 might take more financial resources to “cut through the clutter” of other campaigns.
Either year would require a grassroots campaign with motivated volunteers, O’Connell said.
“I think if we have the same committee we did last time, and they’re motivated, it will pass,” he said. “It sounds like the need is there, it’s just communicating that need to the public.”
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